Orissa Braces for More Hindu-Christian Conflict

No end to the Hindu-Christian violence seems to be in sight in the troubled eastern state of Orissa where another murder of a Hindu nationalist activist last week is expected to only fuel the sectarian violence.

A local worker of the Hindu extremist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was gunned down last Wednesday by suspected Maoists, according to Compass Direct News.

The victim, Dhanu Pradhan, was an RSS activist and said to be on the Maoists' hit list.

Local police said Pradhan was shot by three suspected Maoists in Orissa state's Kandhamal district at 1 p.m., reported The Indian Express.

Although the suspected assailants are Maoists, Christians in Orissa expect to be the target of radical Hindus' wrath.

The current Hindu-Christian violence, which began in Orissa and has since spread to other states in India, was also sparked by the murder of a Hindu nationalist leader by Maoist rebels.

Maoists leaders had publicly claimed responsibility for the murder of the leader of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP), Laxmanananda Saraswati in August, but the VHP had blamed local Christians for the assassinations.

Many think that Hindu extremists were only looking for an excuse to attack Indian Christians, who they see as a threat to the caste system. Many of the Christians in Orissa and throughout India are poor Dalits, who comprise the lowest social class.

Christianity empowers the Dalits and frees them from the oppressive caste system by teaching them that all are equal in God's eyes and offering them education.

Since the August murder of the Hindu leader, more than 4,000 Christian homes and churches in Orissa have been destroyed, mostly through torching.

Also, some 50,000 Indian Christians in the state are displaced and homeless with some 30,000 forced into refugee centers where living conditions are very poor.

The death toll of mostly Christians for the two months of violence range vastly from a couple dozen to as high as more than 500 people. The state government is accused of downplaying the number of deaths to cover up evidence of how serious the country's religious persecution is in the eye of the international community.

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